Patient Care

“Triple Rule Outs” for Chest Pain: A Tool to Evaluate the Coronaries but Not Pulmonary Embolism or Aortic Dissection


Clinical question: How does “triple rule out” (TRO) computed tomographic (CT) angiography compare to other imaging modalities in evaluating coronary and other life-threatening etiologies of chest pain, such as pulmonary embolism (PE) and aortic dissection?

Background: TRO CT angiography is a noninvasive technology that evaluates the coronary arteries, thoracic aorta, and pulmonary vasculature simultaneously. Comparison with other tests in the diagnosis of common clinical conditions is useful information for clinical practice.

Study design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Setting: Systematic review of 11 studies (one randomized, 10 observational).

Synopsis: Using an enrolled population of 3,539 patients, TRO CT was compared to other imaging modalities on the basis of image quality, diagnostic accuracy, radiation, and contrast volume. When TRO CT was compared to dedicated CT scans, no significant imaging difference was discovered. TRO CT detected CAD with a sensitivity of 94.3% (95% CI, 89.1% to 97.5%, I2=58.2%) and specificity of 97.4% (95% CI, 96.1% to 98.5%, I2=91.2%).

An insufficient number of patients with PE or aortic dissection were studied to generate diagnostic accuracy for these conditions. TRO CT involved greater radiation exposure and contrast exposure than non-TRO CT.

This study reports high accuracy of TRO CT in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease. Due to the low prevalence of patients with PE or aortic dissection (<1%), the data cannot be extrapolated to these conditions.

Bottom line: Although TRO CT is highly accurate for detecting coronary artery disease, there is insufficient data to recommend its use for the diagnosis of PE or aortic dissection.

Citation: Ayaram D, Bellolio MF, Murad MH, et al. Triple rule-out computed tomographic angiography for chest pain: a diagnostic systematic review and meta-analysis. Acad Emerg Med. 2013;20(9):861-871.

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